CHEDDAR, Richard (1379-1437), of Thorn Falcon, Som.
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Family and Education
b. Bristol 4 Sept. 1379, s. of Robert Cheddar† (d.1384) of Bristol, by Joan, da. and coh. of Simon Hanham of Glos. m. bef. 1403, Elizabeth (c.1379-bef. 1428), da. and h. of Robert Cantelo of Heddington, Wilts., 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; 1da.; 1s illegit.1
Commr. to take musters June 1415; of sewers, Som. Apr. 1417, May 1425; array Mar. 1419, Jan. 1436; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419; of oyer and terminer June 1432.
The prosperity of the Cheddar family was founded on the investments in land made by Richard’s father, Robert Cheddar, a successful Bristol cloth exporter, who was mayor of the city in 1361-2 and 1363-4, and whose wealth was proverbial. Robert died, insane, in May or June 1384, leaving his property, which in Bristol alone was worth £120 a year, to Richard, the eldest of his four sons but then only four years old. The estate was extensive enough to excite the interest of Sir Thomas Brooke*, who married the merchant’s widow and became Cheddar’s stepfather some time before May 1388. This connexion had considerable effects on Cheddar’s financial and social position. Brooke took his stepson into his own household, and in 1404 Cheddar travelled with him to Westminster where Sir Thomas was to represent Somerset in the first Parliament of the year. During the session an attack made upon Cheddar in London near Baynard’s castle became the cause of a petition by the Commons to the King concerning freedom from arrest and molestation for MPs and members of their households in time of Parliament. Indeed, ‘le orrible baterie et malfait’ committed by John Savage, a King’s esquire, ‘dount l’avant dit Richard Cheddre est emblemiz et mahemiz, et tout sur le peril de mort’, was to take on considerable importance in the history of Commons’ privilege. The dreadful wounds inflicted on Cheddar on the back of his head and across his face so that his nose was almost completely severed, inspired the Lower House to ask that the punishment for this and similar crimes be such as to give an example and ‘terrour’ to others. The petition took shape as a statute, and it was ordered that Savage be brought to justice; but he seems to have evaded capture for a long time. Later that year Cheddar, together with Edmund Pyne*, a close associate of the Brookes and feoffee of the Cheddar estates, attempted to ambush him in Dorset, but he remained at liberty until 1406, when Cheddar eventually received 200 marks damages, which, in accordance with the statute, was double the normal amount awarded in such cases.2 Cheddar again accompanied his stepfather to Parliament in 1407 and 1413 (May), on both these occasions, however, as his fellow knight of the shire.
Soon after Cheddar had come of age in 1400, and in transactions sealed subsequently in 1401, 1407 and 1409, he had made over his inheritance of the extensive Cheddar estates to his mother and stepfather for the term of their lives, on the basis that Brooke had ‘many times endured great travail and cost’ in defending them. This patrimony comprised some 12 manors, three advowsons and part of the bailiwick of the bedelry of the hundred of Chewton, in Somerset, a manor and advowson in Dorset, two manors in Gloucestershire and two more in Devon, besides the many and valuable properties in Bristol. In thus relinquishing his rights Cheddar could have received no issues from the estates until after the death of his stepfather in 1418. Even then, he acquired only five manors, an advowson, and the property at Chewton, which, however, he held jointly with his mother. The latter lived to ripe old age, and it was not until her death in 1437 that he came to enjoy full possession of his patrimony, and even then his enjoyment was short-lived, for he survived her by only a few weeks. Cheddar’s income from other sources must have been small in comparison with the amount he had signed away, but it was, nevertheless, by no means negligible. After the death of his wife’s grandmother, Maud Cantelo, in 1402, he had acquired in his wife’s right the manors of Heddington (Wiltshire) and Dursley, ‘Coldenewenton’ and Leonard Stanley (Gloucestershire), together worth over £54 a year. By 1405 he was said to have an annual income of at least 100 marks, most of which must have come from his wife’s estates, which he continued to hold for the rest of his life ‘by the courtesy’ after her death and that of their young son, Richard. In 1412 Cheddar’s lands in Somerset alone were valued at £40 p.a. and included property at Taunton, Thorn Falcon, Ubley and ‘West Holdwick’. Even so, for all but a couple of months of his life, his holdings comprised but a fraction of the territory amassed by his father.3
By all accounts Cheddar was a violent and lawless man. In November 1405, not long after the Savage affair, he was required to undertake not to break the peace towards Richard Metford, bishop of Salisbury, and his ministers and servants. Later, he became implicated in the ill-considered dealings of his half-brother, Thomas Brooke*, with Sir John Oldcastle*, the stepfather of the latter’s wife. In February 1414 he found mainprise for Brooke that he would not try to escape from the Tower after his imprisonment under suspicion of complicity in Oldcastle’s rebellion, and in August he acted as his surety at the Exchequer when he received custody of some of the Cobham estates, of which Oldcastle had been in possession. In July 1417 he again provided securities for Brooke, this time undertaking that he would neither adhere to Oldcastle, who was still at large, nor secretly maintain or succour him. A similar undertaking was required by the government in respect of Cheddar’s own behaviour. But Cheddar does not in any way fit in with the lollard ideal of the pious layman, and while it is possible that he supported Oldcastle out of family loyalty or for personal gain, it seems unlikely that he ever seriously adopted heretical views. Three years later he was again in trouble: in January 1420 he harangued the jurors at the sessions of the peace at Ilminster who were about to give a verdict against certain tenants on the Cheddar estates, saying:
Ye false harlats, ye buth aboute forto endite my lady my moders tenauntz of Cherde, and yf ye buth so hardy forto endyte ham ye shulleth be endited of stelyng of cloth on rakkes and also ye shulleth have more thenne ye shulleth may bere.
His failure to influence the jury is evident in that he was charged with the offence, and that summer he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea pending payment of a fine. Nevertheless, he was released and was ordered, in February 1421, under pain of forfeiting 1,000 marks, to appear before the King in person on Palm Sunday. When he did eventually present himself, in July, the Council fined him 300 marks; and it was not until February 1422 that the courts were instructed to suspend proceedings against him. Indeed, five more years were to elapse before the Exchequer stopped process against his mainpernors. Another instance of Cheddar’s lawless behaviour also occurred in the 1420s, and this similarly came to the attention of the Council. A woman accused him of imprisoning and causing the death of her husband, and then of plotting that she be raped to bring about the confiscation of her lands, it being the manorial custom that any widow committing fornication lost her tenurial rights.4
It is scarcely surprising that despite the landed importance of his family and his close connexions with the Brookes (in four of his five Parliaments he accompanied either his stepfather or half-brother to Parliament), Cheddar never served on the county bench, and his commissioned service in other respects was limited. The defects in his personal character may also account for the fact that few of the local deeds which survive were witnessed by him, and where his intervention in shire affairs might be expected it is noticeably absent. An exception to this was his attendances at the parliamentary elections held at Ilchester in 1422 and 1423. The Crown was, of course, still ready to borrow from him, and in 1436 he was asked for a loan of 100 marks for the duke of York’s expedition to France.5
Cheddar’s mother died on 10 Apr. 1437 and, before inquisitions post mortem were held on 30 July, Richard, aged 57, had followed her to the grave. The estates he had held in right of his wife fell to their daughter Jane, wife of Thomas Wykes, esquire, while the Cheddar inheritance itself passed to Richard’s only surviving brother, Thomas. Shortly before the latter died in 1443, he divided most of the property between Richard’s illegitimate son, John, and his kinsman, William Seward.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. ix. 270-5; CFR, xii. 201; Procs. Som. Arch. Soc. xliv(ii), 45-46; E326/8864; Harl. 316, f. 4; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 337, 349.
- 2. Overseas Trade (Bristol Rec. Soc. vii), 142; CCR, 1405-9, p. 52; Bristol Wills (Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. 1886), 10; RP, iii. 542; iv. 453; Yr. Bk. Mich. 8 Hen. IV (Reports del Cases en Ley, 1679), 12-14, 20; 9 Hen. IV, 24; Statutes 5 Hen. IV. c. 6; 11 Hen. VI, c. 11; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 144-9; CPR, 1401-5,